Despite a report from the New York Jets beat, namely Rich Cimini and his unnamed sources that questioned the signing of a former first round pick, at a position the Jets are woefully thin at…we at TOJ felt it was time to give an unbiased view of Kellen Winslow Jr.
Kellen WInslow Jr, the son of Hall of Fame Tight End Kellen Winslow Sr, was a member of the Miami Hurricanes during their dominant run from 2001 to 2003. WInslow played sparingly during his freshman year, backing up an All-American in Jeremy Shockey, before exploding on to the scene in his sophomore season. WInslow became a finalist for the Mackey Award, awarded to the nation’s best tight end, after setting the University of Miami record for catches, yards, and touchdowns by a tight end with 57, 726, and 8 respectively. During his junior season, Winslow Jr. won the Mackey Award with 60 receptions, 605 yards, and one touchdown and was named a unanimous first team All-American. Despite the accolades he received, Kellen’s junior season was remembered mostly for the controversy surrounding his “I’m A Soldier” comments after a game against Tennessee.
Kellen was drafted sixth overall by the Cleveland Browns and Butch Davis, the fourth highest draft pick ever used on a tight end. Two games into his rookie year, WInslow tore his fibula and was sidelined for the rest of the season. He was expected to return in time for next season, but a motorcycle accident in the off-season following his rookie season led to WInslow tearing his ACL and being sidelined for the entire 2005 season as well.
WInslow returned in 2006 and, after announcing that 90 percent of him is still better than any tight end in the NFL, hauled in 89 receptions for 875 yards and 5 TDs. His 89 receptions broke Ozzie Newsome’s franchise record for receptions by a tight end. The following season, Winslow earned a Pro Bowl nod with 82 receptions for 1,106 yards and five touchdowns.
In the 2008 season, Winslow suffered a staph infection and missed 5 games while publicly bashing Browns GM Phil Savage for trying to hide the injury. WInslow was suspended one game for this, but Browns owner Randy Lerner apologized and rescinded the suspension. Winslow was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2008 season, and spent the next 3 seasons in Tampa averaging 72 catches, 792 yards, and 4 touchdowns and not missing a single game. After his third season with the team, and 3 years into a six year deal that made Winslow the highest paid TE in the game, WInslow was informed by the Bucs that they would be trading him. Winslow was traded to the Seahawks following the 2011 season, but was waived before the season began because he refused to restructure his contract. Winslow was signed by the Patriots two weeks after being released by Seattle, but then asked for his release from New England 9 days later.
Why would three teams rid themselves of a talented, albeit outspoken, productive offensive weapon? In Cleveland, despite owner Randy Lerner siding with Winslow in his spat with Phil Savage, Winslow was traded to Tampa Bay for a 2nd and 5th round pick. In Tampa Bay, Greg Schiano didn’t like that Winslow would want to miss practice to rest his knee, and immediately shipped him out to Seattle. In Seattle, he refused to lower his salary and was subsequently released. There is one common denominator in all three of these situations; Kellen Winslow, Jr. Kellen Winslow was a highly productive player who didn’t display the most maturity at Miami or in Cleveland (the motorcycle accident and brash comments, plus arguments with the GM).
However, when healthy Kellen Winslow was one of the most productive tight ends in the game and when he signed with New England, the signing was lauded as another shrewd move by that amazing New England front office. Kellen Winslow Jr., if healthy, will be an immediate upgrade over not only what the Jets have now at tight end, but what the Jets have ever given Mark Sanchez (the probable Week 1 starter) to work with at TE. He is a willing blocker, and a matchup problem at 6’4″ and 250 pounds. Winslow, also, doesn’t shy away from contact as his time in Tampa and Cleveland showed that he wasn’t afraid to engage defensive backs, safeties, and linebackers. We all remember Monday Night against the Ravens when Dustin Keller ran out of bounds one yard short of the first down instead of trying to fight for the yard against Ray Lewis. Kellen Winslow will not do that. Again, if healthy, you’re looking at the Week 1 starter at TE. This is another worthwhile risk by the White Mamba, John Idzik. Expect Winslow to be on a monitored reps count, similar to Laron Landry last season, and potentially have a big season for the Jets